June 22, 1953
Queens, New York, United States
Singer, Actress, Director, Songwriter, Wrestling promoter
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Catchy songs and quirky style made Cyndi Lauper a breakout star in 1983, and she had continued success for decades after. Lauper was in fact a relative veteran at age 30 when her album She's So Unusual caught on. Born in Astoria, Queens, she studied art in college and sang in various cover bands before joining the group Blue Angel, whose one 1980 album was a new-wave artifact that never caught on. She went back to the clubs and worked her way to another record deal, with Portrait/CBS in 1983. The single "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (written by new-waver Robert Hazard, who'd meant it to be a little ruder) was an immediate hit, and further success followed with "All Through the Night" and "She Bop," the latter without doubt the first hit song about female masturbation. The album went multi-platinum and received a brace of Grammy nominations (she won for Best New Artist in 1985) and even the backup band, the Hooters, spun off a successful career of their own. Her followup album, True Colors was initially a smaller hit, but its ballad title track became a signature song. Written to comfort a friend who had AIDS, the song became an anthem in the gay community, which would eventually repay Lauper in kind. Though her album sales declined, she would remain a fixture in the pop world, also moving into movies with her first starring vehicle, "Vibes" in 1988. Her personal style also made her a fixture on talk shows, with her thick New York accent and multicolored hair and makeup becoming trademarks. Her serious side also developed on future albums, notably 1996's Sisters of Avalon, and she would remain a vocal supporter of the LBGT community. By 2010 she was enough of an icon to be honored with an official Mattel doll in the Barbie series. The same year brought her roots album, Memphis Blues, for which she was joined in the studio by B.B. King and Allen Toussaint, and on the supporting tour by Dr. John. Her future however would be on Broadway. 2012 brought the debut on Kinky Boots, a musical built around Harvey Fierstein's book and Lauper's lyrics and score, and set in the fashion/drag queen world. Though a slow starter it became a long-running hit, winning four Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Thus Lauper became the first rock artist to write a successful, original musical-succeeding where Jimmy Buffett, Randy Newman and Paul Simon had all failed. (She was also the first woman to win for original score.) As the show took off she did a 2013 tour of She's So Unusual, performing the full album for its 30th anniversary. The following year she made a country album, Detour, and 2018 found her working with Hooters partner Rob Hyman on a second musical, based on the 1988 film "Working Girl."